Vedānta (Devanagari: वेदान्त) a compound of veda, "knowledge" and anta, "end, conclusion", translating to "the culmination of the Vedas" — is a school of philosophy within Hinduism dealing with the nature of reality. An alternative reading is of anta as "essence", "core", or "inside", rendering the term "Vedānta" — "the essence of the Vedas". It is a principal branch of Hindu philosophy. As per some, it is a form of Jnana Yoga (one of the four basic yoga practices in Hinduism; the others are: Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga), a form of yoga which involves an individual seeking "the path of intellectual analysis or the discrimination of truth and reality."
All forms of Vedanta are drawn primarily from the Upanishads, a set of philosophical and instructive Vedic scriptures which deal mainly with forms of meditation. "The Upanishads are commentaries on the Vedas, their putative end and essence, and thus known as Vedānta = 'End of the Veda'. They are considered the fundamental essence of all the Vedas and although they form the backbone of Vedanta, portions of Vedantic thought are also derived from some of the earlier Aranyakas.
Indian pre-Shankara Buddhist writer Bhavya in the Madhyamakahrdaya Karika describes the Vedanta philosophy as "Bhedabheda". The three branches of Vedanta best known in the West are Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita, and dvaita-advaita. Each of these Vedantic divisions was founded by Shri Adi Shankara, Shri Ramanuja and Shri Madhvacharya, respectively. Also of note, historically, in order for a guru to be considered an acharya or great teacher of a philosophical school of Vedanta, he was required to write commentaries on three important texts in Vedanta, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras. Accordingly, Adi Sankara, Ramanuja and Shri Madhvacharya have written commentaries on all three canonical texts. The three schools they conceived are the most prevalent, however, proponents of other Vedantic schools continue to write and develop their ideas as well, although their works are not widely known outside of India.
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